Thirty-four years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v Wade that states may not place "excessive" restrictions on abortion. For all practical purposes, this decision legalized abortion for just about any reason. England made abortion legal in 1967, and China has used abortion for population control for decades. Millions of babies, the most innocent and helpless of human life, have died for the convenience and profit of others.
But medical ethics involves more than the issue of abortion. Stem cell research, euthanasia, organ donation, and when to terminate treatment are some of the many areas where people struggle to find answers.
Many people struggle for answers because they begin with wrong assumptions and principles. For example, if the question of when human life begins could be satisfactorily answered for everyone, then questions of when human life should legally be protected are easier to answer.
Two Biblical principles give insight and clarity to these issues. First, human life is unique, deserving dignity and respect because all humans are descendants of Adam. Genesis 1:26-27 teach that man was created in the image of God. We may not know all the details of what that phrase "image of God" means, but one truth is clear: Only man has the image of God; animals do not. And since all people are descended from Adam, then all people bear the image of God, even if that image is marred and deformed through sin, disease, or accident.
Second, human life begins at conception. The Bible does not tell us everything, but the Bible does tell us enough. Psalm 139:13-16 and Jeremiah 1:5 are two texts which reveal the working of God in the unborn. The only position that is consistent with the Bible and with what we are learning about the life of a baby before birth is that human life begins at conception. Otherwise, all we have left is ethical chaos and pragmatic & convenient demagoguery (which even a casual look at bioethics journals will show).
Does believing that human life begins at conception solve all the ethical problems? No. In fact, it will create a few problems. But it is the only position that fits the evidence, Biblical and scientific.
What is so revealing is that many people will never accept that human life begins at conception, no matter what evidence is presented. Many have a personal agenda of "Me First" and no amount of Bible, logic, or science will change their mind. What principles they have are based on convenience and comfort, not what is right or true.
A person’s attitudes about the weak, the disabled, the sick, the dying, and the unborn are a picture window into his soul and what he really believes about God. Babies who are born with severe deformities and elderly patients with painful, terminal illnesses are situations which test and refine our thinking about God.
The Bible explicitly states (many times) that God is sovereign over life and death, health and sickness, the good and the bad (Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; Isaiah 45:6-7). Once a person rejects the sovereignty of God in these areas, ethical confusion dominates the thinking. For example, what degree of abnormality justifies abortion and who will decide? What is "quality of life" and what criteria will we use to decide? How does a person really know his heart? Does he wish to terminate life because of compassion for the one suffering or does he have other motives? How can we sure what our motives are?
Although those who support abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and euthanasia believe they are honoring human life by their actions, in reality they are dishonoring human life by sacrificing the most helpless and weak for the strong. One day, the strong will become the weak and will themselves be used for the benefit of those stronger.
Bioethics without a Biblical basis is essentially ethics without boundaries (or boundaries which regularly change) and a confusing and empty quest for answers. In today’s pluralistic America, those who believe the Bible have a duty and right to speak out in support of life and oppose a culture of death.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Attention Deficit Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bi-Polar, Chemical Imbalance—we hear these words often. And they are disturbing. Why? Because, more and more, people are labeling their sin as a psychological/medical problem and using prescription drugs to "solve" their problem.
A few facts are in order.
First, no objective, scientific test currently exists that will determine if a person has one of these conditions. For example, if a person has a brain tumor, a CT scan or MRI will almost always reveal the presence of a physical problem---the tumor. Many people are surprised when they find out that the determination of a chemical imbalance in the brain is basically guesswork. No test exists to prove a chemical imbalance.
Second, if a person is seriously depressed, then that person should get a complete physical exam instead of quickly seeking medication to relieve his problem. Many physical disorders and illnesses may contribute to depression. Yet objective medical testing can determine if a person has a verifiable medical condition. But very few of those who are taking anti-depressants have received a thorough physical exam. Most of the time, someone prescribed medication based on a relatively brief visit to the doctor. If a person does not have a verifiable medical condition, then his problem is most likely not medical, but spiritual.
Third, scientists do not understand the human brain. True, we understand more now than we did 20 years ago, yet we do not understand as much as people think we do. Nor has anyone proven that some problems such as alcoholism or drug addiction are the result of genetic brain problems. Many would like for that to be true so that they can avoid responsibility for their sin.
The Bible teaches that repetitive sin will eventually have serious consequences [Proverbs 5:21-23; Galatians 6:7-8], even what we would call psychological problems. King Saul, the first king of Israel, had serious character flaws that he refused to change. As his indulgence in sin progressed, he became more paranoid and psychotic. What started out as a sin problem deteriorated into serious mental and emotional instability, making treatment of his "problems" more difficult.
Are there legitimate mental disorders for which medication could be used. Yes. The brain is an organ of the body just as the kidneys or heart are organs of the body. The brain can become sick and need medication for the problem. Yet our society and even Christians have too often turned to psychology and medication to solve what are fundamentally spiritual problems.
Facing your sin is humbling, hard work. Taking a pill avoids that hard work. Churches need to regain our rightful place in the treatment of people’s problems. Jesus Christ Is More Than Enough.